Virginia men's lacrosse suffer another hair-raising close loss
Ohio State takes first ever win against Cavaliers; last-minute offensive dominance fails to save team's chances
After a one-hour and 43-minute rain delay at the beginning of the fourth quarter that cleared out the 2,243 fans at Klöckner Stadium Saturday, the No. 9 Virginia men’s lacrosse team played with new life against No. 12 Ohio State. The Cavaliers’ renewed efforts were not enough, however, as the Buckeyes claimed an 11-10 win in Charlottesville.
The loss was Virginia’s (5-3) third in as many weeks, each by one goal, including an overtime defeat at Syracuse and a final minute game-winning tally by Cornell at home. It was the first ever win against Virginia for the Buckeyes (5-1), who had lost the previous five meetings before Saturday’s matchup.
Coming out of the delay trailing 10-8 to begin the fourth quarter, senior midfielder Matt White scored his second goal of the day off a feed from junior attackman Mark Cockerton, the NCAA’s leading scorer with 22 goals entering Saturday. After both offenses were held scoreless for more than seven and a half minutes, Cavalier sophomore defenseman Greg Danseglio tallied his second assist of the year when he found sophomore midfielder Ryan Tucker in transition to pull even with 1:48 left to play.
“If we had played the first three quarters the way we played these last 15 minutes, we probably wouldn’t find ourselves in this situation at the very end here,” Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. “We are going to be involved in a lot of these close games. We just have to keep getting better so that we can win this the next time around.”
Buckeye senior midfielder Dominique Alexander answered Tucker’s game-tying goal with a score of his own 17 seconds later to retake the lead for Ohio State. The moment was eerily similar to last week’s game when Cornell scored quickly after junior midfielder Rob Emery tied the game in the final minute.
The Cavaliers have not gotten the breaks down the stretch in recent weeks, and junior attackman Nick O’Reilly’s man-up shot on the crease with four seconds remaining hit the left pipe and landed out of bounds. It was about the only thing that went awry on the day for O’Reilly, who finished with four goals and one assist.
“I think we came out and played harder in the fourth quarter,” O’Reilly said. “I should have finished it. It was a great look, it just didn’t go.”
For Virginia, the loss was especially frustrating because of a mental lapse and a lucky bounce in the third quarter. O’Reilly came around the right side of the crease to score at the 10:09 mark to tie the game at seven apiece, and sophomore midfielder Mick Parks won the subsequent faceoff. But as the Cavaliers attempted to clear, Parks threw a pass behind freshman defenseman Tanner Scales that was promptly scooped up and tossed into the open net by Buckeye freshman attackman Carter Brown.
Then, after Emery tied the game for Virginia and sophomore midfielder David Planning retook the lead for Ohio State, Buckeye senior attackman Logan Schuss’ pass to the crease bounced off of junior defenseman Scott McWilliams’ helmet and past sophomore goaltender Rhody Heller to give Ohio State a 10-8 lead with just four seconds left in the period. Promptly after began the deluge that suspended play.
“I give our guys credit for coming out after the long delay and getting after it, but we just didn’t get enough goals to actually win it,” Starsia said. “We let the game stray away from us early in the game. . . We just can’t do that. We’re just not good enough right now to play anything less than a complete game and expect to come out with a win.”
It was Heller’s second start of the season, and he played the entire game and recorded eight saves while the usual starter, freshman Dan Marino, dressed for the game but remained on the sideline. The move came in an attempt to change Virginia’s fortunes, but ultimately did not yield a different result.
O’Reilly scored a hat trick in the first quarter alone to help Virginia outscore Ohio State 4-2 in the period. He opened the game with a pair of unassisted goals and tallied his third off an assist from White with 47 seconds left. Sophomore midfielder Jesse King opened the scoring for the Buckeyes by handling a pass from Brown and finishing right on the crease. Brown then scored on the crease with one second left in the first quarter when he caught what looked to be a shot from freshman midfielder Charlie Schnider and put it in from a few feet away.
Ohio State kept up its momentum from Brown’s late goal by rattling off the first three goals of the second quarter to grab a 5-4 lead. King scored his 14th goal of the year during a stall warning, a wide-open Planning scored his first of the game and King assisted sophomore midfielder Turner Evans on a man-up strike after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty sent McWilliams to the box for one minute.
Trailing 5-4, Cockerton pulled Virginia even with 1:10 to play in the second period off an O’Reilly feed, but Buckeye freshman attackman Tyler Pfister drove down the alley and rolled back, rifling a righty shot past Heller to take a 6-5 lead into the break.
Shortly after halftime, Schuss extended the Buckeye lead to two goals after McWilliams was again sent to the box for 30 seconds for a push. White then beat his defender with a wicked face dodge and buried a right-handed shot inside the near pipe from a few yards out. O’Reilly tied the game before the ensuing infuriating mistakes doomed Heller and the Cavalier defense.
“We’re playing great teams and we’re losing only by one goal, which is great,” Tucker said. “But at the same time, we can certainly beat these teams. We just need to work on those little things and not make those mistakes.”
The Cavaliers will face off against No. 4 Johns Hopkins March 23 in Baltimore at 4:30 p.m. in the second game of the Konica Minolta Face-Off Classic. That matchup will begin a grueling stretch for Virginia over the next four weeks, including games against No. 1 Maryland, No. 6 North Carolina and No. 17 Duke.